Is it safe for me to return home during a coronavirus epidemic?

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If you’re a listed key worker, it’s straightforward enough, but how do mobility restrictions apply if you need to vacate a property right away, relocate to a new home you just bought, or change flatshares because your new rental arrangement is about to start?

While we seek to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, some of the new regulations and suggestions on freedom of movement are a little unclear and vulnerable to interpretation.

This is especially true when relocating, whether in a rental property or when buying and selling a home. Changing where you live is a significant event in anyone’s life in normal circumstances, and it would surely be considered an “important” change.

The Embargo

On March 23, Boris Johnson said that all UK residents should stay at home in order to protect the NHS and limit the spread of the Coronavirus, and that people should only leave the house for the following (abbreviated) reasons:

Shopping for essentials

Every day, do some form of exercise. Whether it’s for medical reasons or to help a vulnerable person,

Only go to work if it’s really required.

As previously said, there are a number of circumstances in which relocating is judged essential, and there appears to be no clear indication in these laws that doing so is forbidden.

Obviously, if stricter restrictions are put in place in the future, this may change, but for the time being, it appears that these rules are supposed to be used with caution and vary widely depending on the circumstances.

Government Rules and Regulations

If the transfer goes forward, what are the official recommendations for keeping everyone as safe as possible? Social distancing advice can be described as follows when it comes to moving home:

If you start to have symptoms, you should stop moving.

Both before and after, the hands should be thoroughly cleansed.

Maintain a 2-meter separation between yourself and your mover.

If at all feasible, wear a facemask and gloves.

Request the option of self-loading the removals van, or clearly organize your belongings so that the mover can load them without you needing to be there.

It’s crucial to keep a watch out for any coronavirus symptoms in the days preceding a move, and to tell your mover as soon as you see any to cancel or postpone the move.

If a mover develops any of the virus’s common side effects, they must take the same action if they do not have backup people to cover the assignment.

Is there still a chance to locate movers?

Yes, some are, but if they’re a legitimate and responsible company, they’ll almost certainly be operating with varying degrees of safeguards in place to protect customers and staff.

Customers will almost certainly not be allowed to travel in the vehicle. All customers and removals staff will be required to wear face masks and gloves. Self-loading and other options to minimize contact and adhere to social distancing guidelines will almost certainly be implemented, as will changes to cancellation terms and other measures to reflect the current situation.

Due to a staffing deficit, any movers staying in Falkirk during the lockdown will likely have limited availability, putting them at risk of last-minute cancellations.

They may also assess employment in advance to determine whether it qualifies as crucial, and crucial personnel will undoubtedly be a priority.

What BAR has to say about it

The British Group of Removers (BAR) is the most well-known trade association in the sector, having some of the country’s major removal companies as members.

They recommended that members “only conclude movements that are already underway and swiftly cancel or postpone any relocation that has not yet commenced” after the government’s decision on March 23rd. Despite the fact that it is clear and intended with the best of intentions, it is optional, and individual mover businesses must eventually decide whether to continue to provide some type of limited service.

However, given that BAR members tend to be bigger removal businesses with a well-established network of largely house buyer transfers, it’s fair to anticipate that the bulk of them will respect the recommendation and properly secure their doors during the lockdown.

This segment of the market has arguably been hurt more than rentals due to the temporary closure of so many associated service providers, such as conveyancers, estate agents, and solicitors, though many of them continue to provide a limited remote service.

Many smaller independent movers, such as traditional man and van operators, are not members of BAR and will continue to operate if they are legally allowed to do so under government directives and there is still a need for their services, especially in Falkirk.

Renting

The ancient adage “Keep calm and carry on” may have been developed precisely for the current situation. In recognition of the unique nature of this situation, the government has created emergency legislation to protect both tenants and residential landlords from financial difficulty.

In other words, you won’t be evicted if you’ve lost your job or are having difficulties paying your rent due to the pandemic. Similarly, landlords who are having difficulty paying their mortgage might receive assistance in the form of a three-month repayment “holiday,” which can be passed on to the renter to use for temporary rent payments.

The bulk of Falkirk’s younger residents, who move about often, live in privately rented property, such as houses and flatshares. These properties are often owned by private landlords, who may manage all administrative procedures themselves or engage a local lettings agent to do so on their behalf.

If you’re stuck in a property you were supposed to be moving out of and your tenancy agreement is about to expire while a new one is about to start in the place you’re supposed to be moving to, the obvious solution is to talk to your landlords and agents involved to come up with a temporary solution.

Everyone understands that we are in the middle of a national emergency and will gladly assist in any way they can. If you stumble into an issue that requires professional assistance, online services like Shelter and Citizens Advice may be able to assist you.

Renting is significantly more convenient than buying, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t look for a new home while you wait. Viewings may now be booked through FaceTime or Skype, and adjustments have been made to make it simpler for landlords to do right-to-rent checks using scanned paperwork and video conversations.

Although it is better to wait if at all possible, if you really must relocate and think it is required for your health, you are permitted to do so under current government guidelines as long as you follow all available recommendations.

Buying

This tragedy has had a huge influence on both buyers and sellers in the real estate market, and there is no way to avoid it. As a result, the government issued new relocation guidelines on March 26th, which apply to anybody buying or selling a home where they intend to live.

The easiest and most practical scenario is for a first-time or other buyer to enter an empty house. If you are legally entitled to do so and ready to move, there is no reason to postpone or back out of the transaction as long as the applicable safety criteria are met and you can find a willing mover.

In other circumstances, though, a cascade of new challenges will arise. What if someone in the house you’re moving to starts to show symptoms after you’ve already exchanged contracts? Alternatively, if the operation is part of a chain, and someone farther down is in a high-risk category or otherwise unable to move due to current limitations,

Additional steps, such as agreements with banks to extend mortgage offers if completion deadlines are missed, and coordination with conveyancers and estate agents to develop a uniform approach for extending completion dates, have been adopted by the government to solve these challenges.

The government’s fundamental message is that all parties must adapt to the situation and work together sensibly, and that if you can put everything on hold for now and agree on a new date, you should.

If you’re planning to sell your home, it’s obvious that you should hold off until the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. Estate brokers are unable to actively advertise houses at this time due to the lockdown restrictions prohibiting you from allowing anybody inside your property without your permission. Any viewings would have to be done by video from afar.

How much longer do you think this will go on?

Estimates range from weeks to months, if not years, at this time. According to some expert virologists, COVID-19 may also settle down and become seasonal.

So we’ll probably have to learn to live with it (or at least a milder version of it) in the future, and the temporary movement limitations will have to be re-imposed when new local epidemics develop.

No one knows for sure at this point, especially in the absence of an effective vaccine, but this post may be relevant for a bit longer than we would want.

Conclusion

If you have an immediate need to move home that cannot be postponed, you are in agreement with all other parties involved, you can find a mover who has suitable availability and will carry out the move in accordance with current government advice, and you follow all safety recommendations on social distancing, it appears that you are permitted to do so under the current rules at the time of this post.

We wish you all the best in your future efforts.

If your’e in need of any skip hire or man and van please feel free to contact us.